Women in AI at TNW Conference 2024: Is AI making the world a better place?

‘AI is going to change the world’ the Dutch news (NOS) went to TNW Conference to report on the fast-growing AI market. But is it a hype or is it really changing the world? This is a question that is frequently asked during the conference itself. Most of the sessions on AI start with a chart about the rapid growth and adoption of ChatGPT, but a lot of speakers at the event want to go further than that.

“How often is AI detecting an early stage of cancer and saving someone’s life? And how often is it used to generate useless images?” Theoretical neuroscientist and AI expert Dr. Vivienne Ming believes that a lot of technology today is built with the idea of being shallow. Technology can be part of creating better people, but we need to keep focusing on humanity and question what it is built for. During TNW Conference we were about to find out if and how AI can be used for the greater good.

Women in AI at TNW Conference - Sophia Velastegui on stage

AI and Business Transformation

A lot of speakers at TNW Conference agree that AI can be more than just a gimmick. And without the right reasons, you should not use it. Darshan Chandarana from PwC: “Don’t use AI for the sake of using AI.” He concludes that the biggest reason why AI implementations fail is due to the lack of a clear business value. AI advisor and former General Manager of AI at Microsoft, Sophia Velastegui, talked about integrating AI into the core business strategy during her session about Unstoppable AI. She emphasized that AI is not just about productivity enhancements; it is about integrating AI into the core business strategy to solve significant business problems. AI’s potential to revolutionize every industry is immense, and businesses must actively participate in this AI journey to harness its full potential.

The future of AI lies in multimodal capabilities, which involve integrating different types of data (text, images, video) into a cohesive AI system. Multimodal AI promises to unlock new dimensions of innovation by combining diverse data types for richer insights and applications. Velastegui underscored that the most significant value of AI lies in its ability to drive innovation rather than just improve productivity. For AI to be successful, it must be part of a broader ecosystem that includes data, technology, and business strategy. 

As AI continues to evolve, so does the responsibility of using it ethically and effectively. Velastegui echoed Satya Nadella’s sentiment that while AI presents incredible opportunities, it also demands greater responsibility.

Embracing AI in Education

During the session ‘The Future of Learning: AI & Personalization’, Dan Rosensweig, Executive Chairman of Chegg, Inc., delivered an enlightening talk. He shared his perspectives on the transformative potential of AI in education and the challenges that lie ahead. He expressed his frustration over the slow adoption of AI in education, despite its proven capabilities. He emphasized that the potential of AI to revolutionize learning is immense, yet the progress is hindered by bureaucratic and cultural resistance. 

“The traditional education system, with its reliance on lectures and standardized curricula, is outdated.” Dan calls for a re-evaluation of what education should entail in the digital age. One of the most compelling aspects of AI in education, according to Dan, is its ability to personalize learning experiences. Chegg’s access to millions of students worldwide allows the company to gather detailed data on individual learning needs. This data can be used to tailor educational content, predict career paths, and identify skill gaps. Dan believes that personalized learning is crucial in addressing the diverse needs of students. “Particularly in a globalized world where 25% of college students in the U.S. speak English as a second language.”

A significant barrier to the adoption of AI in schools is the resistance from institutions themselves. Dan recounted his discussions with policymakers, emphasizing that banning AI tools in schools only exacerbates educational inequalities. He cited the example of New York City schools, where an initial ban on AI was overturned after it was recognized that such measures would disadvantage students from lower-income backgrounds. “The future of learning will be defined not just by the technology we use, but by how we choose to use it.”

Moving From AI Models to Platforms

How should you implement AI then? Adir Ron, AI advisor and CTO at Microsoft for Startups, thinks we should stop obsessing about AI models and shift our mindset to using AI as a platform. The rapid pace of AI development means that what was groundbreaking yesterday quickly becomes commonplace. This fast evolution underscores the need to shift focus from individual AI models to the broader AI platform. “AI’s potential lies not just in the models themselves, but in the applications and ecosystems built on top of these models.” Future models will be faster, better, and cheaper, making it essential for innovators to leverage AI as a platform to build dynamic, scalable solutions.

Drawing from Microsoft’s own experiences, Adir stressed that the key to successful AI integration lies in enhancing user experience and adoption rather than merely adding features. This shift in focus -from feature development to user-centric design- can drive higher engagement and satisfaction. Some practical applications he mentions are: 

Women in AI at TNW Conference - Adir Ron

AI Assistants
The growing trend of building AI assistants tailored to specific user needs. These assistants can handle complex tasks by integrating contextual information, driving significant efficiencies as seen in customer service applications.

AI Extensions
Platforms like Microsoft’s Copilot enable developers to create extensions that enhance the core capabilities of existing applications. This approach simplifies user interaction and fosters a seamless integration of AI-driven functionalities.

AI Automation
The future potential of AI lies in automation. AI agents capable of performing tasks autonomously could revolutionize workflows, although there are challenges and risks associated with full autonomy.

“There is a critical aspect of trust in AI systems that needs to be addressed.” Adir noted that early missteps with chatbots have made users wary, but rebuilding trust is possible through transparency and effective data management. “Startups can seize the opportunity to innovate within the AI platform ecosystem.” Where it comes down to is that Adir thinks that the future of AI is not just about smarter models; it’s about smarter applications, seamless integrations, and a user-centric approach that transforms how we interact with this technology.

The Philosophical Debate for AI Ethics

Back to the ethical debate, in a panel discussion five distinguished speakers gathered to share their insights on the ethical implications of AI development and its profound impact on society. In the panel we have Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, Dr. Vivienne Ming, a neuroscientist and entrepreneur, Ben Goertzel, CEO of SingularityNET and Aliya Grig, founder of the Evolving and Cosmos Foundation. The panel was hosted by Ekaterina Almasque, an investor with a background in digital infrastructure and AI.

Vivienne emphasized the necessity of ethical AI, illustrating how even well-intentioned AI systems can inadvertently perpetuate biases. “If you want to make ethical AI, it isn’t about the AI. Are you owning the whole problem that you’re working on?” she questions. Vivienne also discussed the broader societal impacts of AI, such as the potential cognitive decline due to over-reliance on technologies like Google Maps. She urged for a balanced approach to technology, ensuring it enhances human capabilities without diminishing essential skills.

Ben provided a futuristic outlook on AI, discussing the rapid advancements towards AGI. He highlighted the importance of developing AI systems that can reflect and make moral judgments, envisioning a future where AI could surpass human intelligence. “What I’ve been working on for my whole career is really, how do you make machines that can think as well as people and even smarter than people,” Goertzel explained. In addition to that, Aliya focuses on the intersection of AI and human consciousness. She stressed the need for AI to align with human values and aid in our personal and collective evolution. Aliya advocated for new architectures in AI that mimic human learning processes, reducing the need for massive datasets and increasing efficiency. Aliya also emphasized the role of personal growth in shaping AI. “Focus not only on AI technologies, but also focus on us as humans.” she advised. She believes that as creators of AI, our values and ethics will be reflected in the systems we build.

A Call for Ethical AI Development

As the discussion drew to a close, each speaker provided a final piece of advice on fostering ethical AI. Dr. Ming stressed the need for understanding causality in AI decisions, while Goertzel and Grig both highlighted the importance of inclusive and participatory AI development.

Overall, the call for a conscientious approach to AI, that ensures these powerful technologies are developed with ethical considerations at the forefront, was a big part of the conversation. Making sure the AI is used and implemented for the right reasons means you need to focus on what it takes for your business to adopt the technology in the right way. And that often starts from the top. Like Jane Lauder, from Estée Lauder, tells us in her talk about avoiding bias in the beauty industry: “You don’t change culture without going from the top.”


Women in AI at TNW Conference - VivienneMing

The insights of the speakers at TNW Conference this year underscore the necessity of balancing technological advancements with human values, fostering a future where AI serves to enhance and uplift humanity. And it feels like the way we are approaching this technology is finally getting a lot more grown-up.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Don't miss out on the Women in AI NL news and updates! Every month we will update you about what's new within the WAI community.